The state will allocate 1.15 billion euros or 2.2 billion leva to deal with the consequences of the closure of coal plants and the transition to a climate-neutral economy. This is recorded in the latest version of the territorial plans published by the Ministry of Energy on August 9. Tomorrow they are expected to be considered by the Council of Ministers, reports BNT.
The plans show what the money will be allocated to so that the worst-hit regions can cope after the closure of the coal mines and adjacent tailings. According to them, by 2030, 7.5 gigawatts of new renewable sources powered by the sun and wind will be built in Bulgaria. The operators will start to reduce their work from the beginning of next year, when the first contract of the American plant “Contour Global Maritsa East 3” expires. It is expected to stop working and be used as a possible backup if needed. It is not yet clear what funds the company will receive to be maintained as a reserve.
Several reference years are recorded in the territorial plans. In terms of coal production, the key year will be 2026. After that, the real reduction in production and land reclamation will begin.
By 2038, coal plants that have switched to another type of fuel must be closed.
By 2050, Bulgaria’s economy must be climate neutral, that is, the consequences of production should not lead to changes in the climate.
The areas most affected by the suspension of coal mining and the production of energy from solid fuel are Stara Zagora, Pernik and Kyustendil. Of these, the most serious effect will be in Stara Zagora, where four of the largest coal plants are located, as well as the state-owned “Mini Maritsa-East”. According to data from the Ministry of Energy, over 11,000 people currently work in this industry in the region. However, these are only those directly affected. There are whole industries around the mines and the mines that work for them.
The purpose of territorial plans is to support enterprises and businesses that provide these people with employment and at the same time to transform the economy from a polluting one to a highly efficient one. The plan contains three main pillars:
reclamation of lignite pits;
helping to create hydrogen-based value chains;
support for the creation of industrial parks for clean technologies;
support scheme for photovoltaic parks;
a scheme to support the use of green hydrogen;
support of biomethane and wind energy production;
One of the ideas floated is to build large solar energy parks on the site of the mines. At the same time, an opportunity will be sought for the candidates to switch to another type of fuel. As a transition, natural gas was discussed.
mapping the skills of the affected workforce;
retraining and upgrading of qualifications;
energy efficiency measures with a focus on energy poverty;
Currently, studies show that most of the people working in the mines are low-skilled, who specialize in technical activities. It is very difficult for such workers to find a job in a different sector.
Diversification of the local economy
diversification and adaptation of the local economy;
support for scientific research and innovation for enterprises;
The purpose of this pillar is to allocate money for the development of new enterprises in fields other than energy.
At the same time, funds will be allocated for technical support under the so-called horizontal pillar. The support will be provided by the state through the ministries of regional development, energy and labor and social policy.
The creation of a new state company “Conversion of Coal Regions” or abbreviated KVR is also at stake. It will deal with reclamation of the terrain after coal mining and creation of the necessary new infrastructure.
Although the territorial plans are expected to be approved tomorrow and sent to Brussels, they have not yet met with the full support of local authorities and unions. It is also questionable how territorial plans are written without having an energy strategy that shows exactly how and when to transition to a low-carbon economy. The plans mention several times that new nuclear power will be built, as well as battery parks for energy storage.
Yesterday, however, Finance Minister Asen Vassilev announced that the state is abandoning the battery project in order to realize savings under the recovery and sustainability plan, where the money was expected to come from. There is also a lack of clarity about future nuclear capacities. There are neither deadlines nor specific offers or procedures for selecting investors.
At the same time, the plan says that the demand for electricity will increase until 2030. A reference to the operating balance of the Electricity System Operator shows that currently the most electricity is produced by the Kozloduy NPP – almost 38%, from solar plants – 26.78% and from tetsov – 21.75%. The data changes due to the weather – when it is sunny, the production of electricity from photovoltaics can exceed 40 percent, but when it is cloudy, it drops sharply.
The money for the territorial plans is provided from different sources. In addition to the Recovery and Sustainability Plan, operational programs and co-financing from the state budget are also relied upon.